JERUSALEM (AP) – Itamar Ben-Gavir, an extremist politician with a long record of anti-Arab rhetoric and stunts, will become Israel’s next national security minister, the first of what is expected to be several alliance agreements. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party.
Likud announced the deal with Ben-Gavir’s Jewish Power party on Friday.
Negotiations are underway with three other potential far-right and ultra-Orthodox coalition partners. If successful, Netanyahu would return to the prime ministership and preside over the most right-wing and religious government in Israel’s history.
Giving Ben-Gavir a sensitive role has raised concerns about further escalation of Israeli-Palestinian tensions. Ben-Gvir and his allies hope to grant immunity to Israeli soldiers who shoot at Palestinians, expel rival lawmakers and impose the death penalty on Palestinians convicted of attacks on Jews.
Ben-Gavir is a disciple of the racist rabbi, Meir Kahane, who was banned from parliament and whose Kutch party was designated a terrorist group by the US before he was assassinated in New York in 1990.
Ahead of Israel’s Nov. 1 election, Ben-Gvir grabbed headlines for his anti-Palestinian speeches and stunts, including brandishing a pistol and encouraging police to open fire on Palestinian stone throwers in a tense Jerusalem neighborhood.
Before becoming a lawyer and entering politics, he was convicted of inciting racism and supporting a terrorist organization.
In his new role, he will be in charge of the police, among other things, enabling him to implement some of the hardline policies against the Palestinians he has advocated for years.
As part of the coalition agreement, the current Ministry of Internal Security will be renamed the Ministry of National Security and given expanded powers, Likud said on Friday.
As head of the ministry, Ben-Gavir will oversee police and paramilitary border police operating alongside Israeli soldiers in Palestinian population centers.
Likud lawmaker Yaron Levin hailed the deal signed Thursday as “the first agreement on the road to establishing a stable right-wing government led by Benjamin Netanyahu.”
Ben-Gavir entered parliament for the first time in 2021, when his Jewish Power party merged with the Religious Zionism party. Ben-Gavir’s closest political ally, Religious Zionism leader Bezalel Smotrich, is in separate negotiations with Likud, which emerged as the largest party in the election.
Netanyahu has yielded to some demands, such as Smotrich’s demand for a defense ministry. Discussions currently focus on the terms under which Smotrich will become finance minister.
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